Month: September 2017 (page 1 of 2)

We should probably mention Middlesex being relegated

Trescothick knee-catching the SS Eskinazi (via YouTube)

In a way, Middlesex were unlucky to be relegated as they only finished two points off fourth place. In another way, they weren’t unlucky because Somerset, Hampshire and Yorkshire all finished with more points than they did, which is kind of the aim of this whole endeavour.

As title defences go, it was poor; worse even than Lancashire’s relegatory 2012 because they could at least point to almost equally bad batting the year before.

Middlesex and Warwickshire will next season be replaced by Worcestershire (somewhat surprisingly) and Nottinghamshire (far less surprisingly) in the first division of the County Championship.

Notts have certainly waved goodbye to the raw-deal-getting Chris Read in fine style having also won both limited overs competitions in 2017.

Where are your ‘bad pitch’ thresholds?

Cricket pitch (CC licensed by peter lowe via Flickr)

What is a bad pitch? We can get some sort of an idea by working out what we deem to be a good pitch – but there’s more to it than that.

Most people will say a pitch is bad when wickets fall too easily. When a pitch gives too much assistance to bowlers and batting becomes a bit of a lottery, that’s a bad pitch.

But where’s your threshold? And is it the same for pitches that aid quick bowlers and those that aid spinners?

Now the obvious point to make at this juncture is that turning pitches will often (but not always) turn more as a game wears on, whereas a seaming pitch is probably more likely to flatten out – so they are different.

But set that aside, because the point we’re making is really just that we impose different standards and that these standards will vary from person to person. There is no universally agreed definition of a bad pitch that will be applied by everyone in exactly the same way.

As we implied earlier in the week, we believe much of the angry hoo-ha about turning pitches is down to people’s perceptions of normality. In England, seam bowling is commonplace and so becomes a major aspect of many county cricket fans’ internal templates for how things should be.

This is what explains the bizarre level of anger that is sometimes directed towards counties who prepare turning pitches. It is a bunch of people with a skewed template of normality struggling to accommodate reality. These people’s response is generally a heartfelt desire to impose their idiosyncratic standards on the world in the firm belief that everyone else’s take on things is wrong.

So this is another reason why the bad pitch debate can at times become surprisingly heated. It tends to pit insularity, parochialism and lack of self-awareness against a bunch of people who like to define themselves otherwise. It is an unusually fundamental disagreement for something seemingly so trivial.

England to win the Ashes via airy off-side drives

James Vince (via YouTube)

Is that a dripping tap way off in the distance? No, it’s actually James Vince gently knocking on the door to politely request selection, if that wouldn’t be too much trouble.

Quite how the selectors heard him is beyond us. Vince wasn’t thought to be good enough at the start of summer, but three fifty-plus scores in 17 County Championship innings have seen him force his way into the Test side.

We feared for Vince’s chances before he played Test cricket. On his debut, he hit two fours and then edged to slip trying to hit a third. The rest of last summer followed a similar template (basically a “worst of Gower” montage viewed in a mirror).

Now Vince is back on the strength of no-one else being much good. The theory is that the ball doesn’t swing as much Down Under so he’ll have to find a new way to get out.

The rest of the Ashes squad

Well it’s undeniably a weak squad. The selectors haven’t managed to pick a player who’s stuck since Moeen Ali in 2014. This has led to more and more gaps needing to be filled.

Here are a few more of the Antipodean crossed-fingers punts presented in opinionated bullet point format:

  • Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan aren’t yet dropped, although Tom Westley is
  • Gary Ballance did at least do slightly better than James Vince this season (three hundreds, four fifties, average of 77)
  • Ben Foakes is a worthy wicketkeeping understudy
  • Mason Crane is the second spinner who’ll only play if England pick two spinners (which will never happen)
  • Jake Ball gets the nod through being physically intact
  • Craig Overton hasn’t yet played international cricket

Savour this moment. We still have the luxury of optimism at this point – and there is much to try and be optimistic about.

Ben Stokes makes a night in the cells happen

The facts are these. Splice and dice them as you see fit.

  • The ECB say that 26-year-old Ben Stokes was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning  following “an incident” in Bristol
  • Police say a 26-year-old man was arrested that night on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm
  • Another fella went to hospital with facial injuries
  • Stokes has injured his hand
  • Stokes was released under investigation
  • Alex Hales is helping police with their enquiries

Our reading of this is that England’s premier one-day opening batsman is pursuing a new career in law enforcement with Avon and Somerset Constabulary. There may also have been a thing with Ben Stokes, but it’s almost impossible to deduce what might have happened with that from these scant details.

But let’s imagine for a minute that Stokes was shit-faced and lamped a fella. You know, hypothetically speaking.

Like all England players Ben Stokes knows not to cross the line. That is something that is inculcated in all who wear the three lions – accurate location of and respect for the line. At the same time, he’s a passionate sort of human being and he wears his heart on his sleeve. You wouldn’t want him to lose that passion now, would you? Where would that leave him?

‘Not under investigation for causing actual bodily harm’ you might answer. Well, maybe, but he needs that edge, doesn’t he? Needs it. That’s what makes him great, right?

In the unlikely event that the above reading of events should prove to be correct, then based on this and previous “incidents” we have another conclusion to put forward.

It is this: Ben Stokes is a bit of a lightweight and entirely incapable of handling his drink.

Spin bowling is abnormal – ask any county cricket supporter

Ravi Patel (via County Championship Twitter)

In England, spin academies aren’t so much schools of excellence as institutions built to keep the weirdos away from the normals. Seam bowling is normal; not to be remarked upon. Spin bowling is other.

If people see a lot of something, they become conditioned into thinking it’s the default. So it is with county cricket supporters and seam bowlers. The English and Welsh domestic game is built around earnest fast-medium trundlery such that no-one really bats an eyelid should a team be seamed out for 76 – but spin a team out for 236 on day one and people will begin revving their grumble machines, aiming to hit a screeching pitch by the end of day two.

Somerset need to beat Middlesex and have bonus points go their way to be in with a shout of staying in the first division of the County Championship. They are playing on a pitch on which this could happen. Middlesex are playing on the same pitch and have complained that this is unfair. Well what is a good pitch anyway?

Domestic first-class cricket pretty much steps aside for the peak of the summer these days. Consigned to the damper pitches of spring and autumn, seam bowling has taken on even greater importance. Perceptions of normality have therefore skewed even further in that direction and tolerance has dropped. “Get back to foreignland, you weirdo spin types! That’s not the way things are supposed to be here in Blighty.”

Throw in a few batsmen who’ve forgotten how to face a turning ball – or who never knew in the first place – and you’ve a wonderful recipe for skittlery garnished with outrage. This nation is not short of people with faulty templates for the world telling everyone how things should be. All the rest of us can really do is try and enjoy it to the full when reality once again disappoints them.

Moeen Ali does some clean hitting

Mo mowed it.

It was a day of increasing numbness to sixes and Batting Ali had the good sense to get in early when they still seemed important and the match was still in the balance.

Others may have hit the ball further, but no-one lashed it quite so reliably or with such whiplash cleanliness. It was the kind of hitting that buys you a couple of dropped chances.

Moeen was also aided by the Windies bowlers seemingly targeting ‘the slot’ when bowling to him. If the resultant highlights were somewhat reminiscent of that time Loots Bosman and Graeme Smith built an entire Twenty20 innings total on just one shot, the actual physical act of mullering it over the leg-side boundary had a lot more fluidity to it on this occasion.

“I just had a slog really,” said our man afterwards. “I tried to watch the ball, keep my shape and really go for it.”

He neglected to inform us whether he’d obeyed or disproved that other modern commentary trope: tell us, Mo, did you at any point try and overhit it?

For a man first bunged into the side on the basis that he was a reasonable batsman and halfway competent spin bowler, Moeen Ali is doing some exceptional things in international cricket. Selected as mortar to fill in the cracks, he’s instead revealed himself to be a giant Pyramid-of-Khufu-sized stone block that flickers in and out of existence.

It’s not really what they were expecting, but England are happy with that. It therefore wouldn’t be a surprise if selection policy were to head even further down the all-rounder road in a bet-hedging trawl for tomorrow’s specialists.

A cricket bat in a Danish nouveau-punk duo’s video

Ged writes:

PowerSolo are a wild and crazy Danish nouveau-punk duo. They mostly tour around Europe, not the UK. My old friend Pinball Geoff put me onto them recently – they are even more mad than his band, the Bikini Beach Band. Short story.

During the first twenty seconds of the video for Powersolo’s song, Frantic, one of the Danish duo is gratuitously roused from his slumbers with the use of a cricket bat. To add to the confusion, Clint Eastwood sort-of introduces the video. It’s all a bit cog-dis, especially the cricket bat bit.

Send your pictures of cricket bats and other cricket stuff in unusual places to

England v South Africa at Trent Bridge – match report

Bert writes:

Whenever Ged goes to the Test, he is literally sustained by a succession of culinary marvels. My test match sustenance, on the other hand, is more metaphorical than literal, being largely a succession of pointless and asinine conversations. But just as when Harry Morgan’s closes its doors for the evening, the source of our interlocutory morsels occasionally fails, and uncomfortable silence falls. It is at moments such as these when the Times Saturday Review section comes to the rescue.

Aside from being very badly named (it is published on a Saturday morning, for god’s sake), its usefulness as a trigger for drunken conversation is unsurpassed. Not the least of its delights is the puzzle section, and the edition I grabbed on my way out of the house could not have been more appropriate. The Two Brains quiz comprised the following questions:

1. Which England cricket captains share their surname with a British Prime Minister?

2. Which first name is the most common among a) British Prime Ministers and b) England Cricket Captains, and how many times does the most common of the latter occur in the list of the former?

(This second question I interpreted as asking a numerical question, as opposed to the answer being “Gaz” or “Kev”.)

During an hiatus at the conversation, I asked the lads these questions. Several people in the locality overheard, and soon it became the main point of discussion in our part of the stand. Answers were flying in from all over the place. The first PM / Captain surname combo was knocked off quite quickly, but the others took some time. My suggestion of Derbyshire opening batsman Des Rayleigh was dismissed as made-up nonsense, which was true, but I didn’t think gave it sufficient credit. Therefore I repeated it a few times till it was at least acknowledged.

The captains’ first name question also didn’t take too long, but the prime ministerial version took a lot longer.

To finish, we did the Word Finder puzzle, to find as many words as you can from the letters Y, D, E, D, S, U, N, T, U, R, four letters or more, all containing the first of these letters (Y), no proper nouns, no conjugated verbs, no comparatives, superlatives or plurals. A ten-letter word does exist, we are told. Getting 13 words is described as “average”. 18 is “good”, 26 is “very good”, and 34 is “excellent”. We also added a rule that any word we could associate with cricket, however loosely, would score two points.

Our combined total of words by stumps, taking into account the double-points amendment, was coincidentally the same as that of England test wins in this series at that moment.

It wasn’t all pointless rambling though. We also asked and answered the question, “Is First Slip the most redundant position on a test match field?”, and debated whether or not the observation (made by one of us) that he preferred the South African whites was acceptable in this day and age.

Send your match reports to If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.

A spider being conspicuously indifferent to cricket

Ged writes:

This plucky fellow was observed in the Lower Compton Stand at Lord’s, very close to the historic concrete step where King Cricket demonstrated his “Real World Skills” in 2016.

Perhaps this spider’s magnificent web is an arachnidian equivalent of a blue plaque, commemorating King Cricket’s astonishing feat…or merely the fact that King Cricket once sat there. A rotund specimen, this – a veritable arachnoid Dwayne Leverock. Take a closer look; magnificent.

If you’ve got a picture of an animal being conspicuously indifferent to cricket, send it to

Cambridge University v Arabs match report

Edwardian writes:

I arrived at Fenner’s just after start of play and exchanged a ‘hello’ with an Arab in a floppy hat on the boundary. I had to bone up on Arabs before the match. The team are a wandering outfit started by E.W. (Jim) Swanton back in the frozen to death.

There was a heavy throng of nine spectators in the pavilion which included Spike, myself, the two scorers and Marlene manning the bar. Marlene fought off demanding punters who asked for drinks at half-hour intervals. She skilfully decanted cans of lager, IPA and Old Speckled Hen and coped with the onslaught admirably.

Spike had already ordered his lunch of gammon and new potatoes. I had brought my own docky bag comprising a chilli scotch egg (about ¾ the size of a cricket ball) and haslet slices in a roll with salad and mustard.

I thought 12.30pm was a sensible time for a beer so went for a Hen, pinched a knife from the tuck shop and halved the scotch egg. Spike was gearing himself up for the in-house lunch and refused the other half. I ate the other half. The Scotch egg was a great combination with the beer but putting chilli in a scotch egg I thought was a bit of a novelty not worth repeating.

I lost track of the scorecard. Spike managed to get his nosebag in ahead of the players at 1.30pm. He lost track of the scorecard.

As the players came in for lunch I contemplated the pros and cons of another pint and decided that thinking in general is a dangerous occupation.

I ate the haslet roll. The bread roll had olives embedded in it. I gave myself a good talking to.

Spike thought that the Cambridge spinner N. J. Winder was someone to look out for in the future and mentioned something about Wackford Squeers and windows.

The match wound up at about 3.30pm and Spike and I sank the beer I was contemplating earlier. Two players strolled to the bar making the floorboards strain at 11 occupants.

I got the feeling that the Cambridge middle-order batsmen were begrudging not having enough time out in the middle.

‘It’s only April,’ was said at least three times. This is cricketing-speak for, ‘It’s only April.’

Send your match reports to If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an ad-hoc match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.

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